NAB names Ross McEwan as new CEO

Former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO will take the reins of National Australia Bank.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

National Australia Bank (NAB) has appointed Ross McEwan as the group's new chief executive officer and managing director.

The New Zealand-born banker takes on the role after resigning as CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in April, a role he had held since 2013.

Prior to moving to London for the RBS role, he was group executive for retail banking services for five years at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He was also CBA's executive general manager.

NAB said McEwan will join the company once his obligations to RBS have been "discharged", which is expected to happen no later than April 2020.

In the meantime, McEwan has been invited to join the board, the company said.

See also: How NAB is taking Australia's skills shortage into its own hands (TechRepublic)

Interim CEO Philip Chronican -- who will transition to chairman of NAB in mid-November -- said McEwan will help turn the bank's operations and culture around to focus on customer service, experience, and products.

"Ross brings a compelling range of experience across finance, insurance and investment with a track record of delivering important and practical improvements for customers. RBS has been through many of the same challenges which NAB now faces around culture, trust and reputation," he said.

"We have secured a well proven CEO and reached agreement on an appropriate remuneration package when compared with domestic and international peers and other sectors."

Chronican's move to chairman replaces Ken Henry, who indicated in February his intention to resign from the board once a permanent CEO was appointed.  

The hunt for a new NAB CEO has been ongoing since Andrew Thorburn resigned from the role after four and a half years following damning findings from the final report of the Royal Banking Commission.  

McEwan said during a press conference on Friday that his key focus will be to "focus on the customer and delivering to them" by making sure all products have a "true need for customers".

"I'd like NAB to be the most trusted bank in the Australian marketplace," he said, pointing out how NAB's reputation needs to be repaired following the Royal Banking Commission. 

"Customer service and delivery are what can differentiate us."

McEwan however, warned how it will take time. 

"There's no silver bullet to repair the reputation or improve customer service. Every interaction everyday has to be with the customer at the centre of that...and it can take some time. It's day by day, interaction by interaction," he said.

He also acknowledged that continuing the bank's digital transformation program, which remains on track, will also be another priority, pointing out how digital disruption to banking is a global trend that NAB needs to keep on top of.

McEwan will join a list of executives that have been appointed to the NAB group executive leadership team in recent years, including CTO and former NSW Premier Mike Baird.

Despite the executive changes, it remains business as usual for the big bank, which announced last month that it will invest AU$2 billion over five years to help startups build and grow their businesses.

The bank will provide Australian "tech-innovators" with loans, as well as facilitate access to capital markets. NAB said it will also support companies with transactional banking and risk management.

Updated Friday 19 July, 2019, 11.23am AEST: Additional comments from Ross McEwan have been added.

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